- The 2MASS Redshift Survey created this universe map over the course of 10 years. It shows some 43,000 galaxies within 380 million light years of our planet. The Milky Way runs from left to right in the middle of the map.
Interstellar hitchhikers now have another necessity beside towels to cram into their bindlestiffs. It's this new map of the local universe, presented in Boston during the 218th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
The map displays all the visible structures in space up to 380 million light years away from earth, including about 45,000 galaxies. Purple dots are the closest to us, then blue and green dots; orange and red structures are the farthest out. (Unless you believe in the, uh, "Space Mirror" conspiracy, in which case there are no galaxies beyond 150 million kilometers.) The map was created from 10 years of observations by two telescopes monitoring the ether in infrared, which allowed them to penetrate through the dusty "Zone of Avoidance" obscuring parts of the Milky Way. The project behind this effort is the University of Massachusetts' Two-Micron All-Sky Survey Redshift Survey (another link), quite an impressive mouthful.
The Milky Way has an unusual type of motion, caused by an unknown gravitational influence, that researchers hope this projection will help identify. You can read more about the map and its implications over at Space.com.
Curious about what the first good map of the universe looked like?
Here it is. This landmark piece of space cartography was drafted by William Herschel, English astronomer, discoverer of infrared radiation in space and a fanatic of mapping spiral galaxies. Hershel monitored the stars using a 40-foot-long telescope mounted in his garden:
This now-musty map was the precursor to the Redshift Survey. Here's another even more spectacular image from the survey, this time a near-infrared image of more than 1.5 million galaxies beyond the Milky Way: